Music

10 Christian Artists Doing It Differently

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Gospel music has certainly changed over the years!  While the genre still inspires us all to pray, love, be faithful, and live righteously (among other things), we’ve come a long way from climbing the rough side of the mountain (Sidebar: Do mountains even have smoother sides? If so, why choose the rough side to climb? That seems counter intuitive and unnecessarily difficult.) Anyway, a new generation of songwriters, producers, and performers have emerged and they more in common with their Hip-Hop, Pop, and RNB counterparts than the choir sounds of yesteryear.  WARNING: This isn’t your grandma’s Gospel. (No holding mules here – primarily because a lot of us don’t have mules…or we live in the city…or both)!

Breaking from traditional styles and leaving their own marks on the gospel industry, here are 10 Christian/Gospel artists (in no particular order of importance) whose music is out the box. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section of this article!

1. Tye Tribbett @tyetribbett –
tyetribbett400x400A multi-award-winning songwriter, producer, and choirmaster from Camden, NJ, Tribbett has been celebrated time and again for his energy, innovative use of the choir sound, while fusing various musical genres to create a larger than life music production. In addition, his on-stage theatrics never seemed to lose ground during playback via headphones, or blasting through car speakers.  Tribbett continues to pioneer a generation of gospel music with fresh ideas, youth, and vitality.

 

 

2. Mali Music @malimusic –

malimusic-readyaimUnique, misunderstood, and a bit controversial are words that can be used to describe Mali Music. His sophomore album, “The 2econd Coming” was a runaway success in praise and worship circles and has brought a sense of street swag to church music. Mali’s sound boasts a masterful fusion of hip-hop, soul and praise & worship, with vocal stylings reminiscent of the soul singer Bilal.  One of Mali’s most captivating on stage qualities is his matter of fact demeanor which helps him connect with this generation of gospel music fans.  Since his first album in 2008, Mali has appeared on BET’s Music Matters, he has signed with Akon’s Konvict Music for a short period, then RCA’s label where he earned a Grammy for his current album, “Mali Is.” In 2011, Mali Music was the center of controversy as he signed with Akon.  His followers, confused and disappointed, struggled with Mali’s move to a secular label and thought his gospel message may be compromised.  However, upon the release of Mali Is, that confusion has quieted as his message remains uncompromised even though his lyrical content has broadened for mass appeal.

3. Erica Campbell @iamericacampbell –

erica-campbell-652x367No stranger to gospel music, Erica Campell has experienced much success since 2000 as a member of the multi-award winning duo, Mary Mary, with her sister, Tina Campbell.  The group is credited, along with Kirk Franklin, with helping to expand the fan base of Urban Contemporary Gospel.  The list of awards won by this duo, which includes Grammies, Doves, BET Awards, etc., is too long to list in this article.  Since going solo in 2014 with “Help Campbell has produced some of the most progressive gospel music to date.  A great example of this is her single, “I Luh God” released in 2015.  The single drew criticism from older gospel music listeners for using production and vocal stylings identical to “trap music”, a secular hip-hop sub-genre.  However, despite the criticism, “I Luh God” has heavy rotation in virtually all major markets and has become an anthem in young gospel culture.

4. Lecrae @lecrae –

Lecrae-winsAlthough he isn’t the first gospel rapper, he is most certainly the most prominent, and probably the most important.  Lecrae is nothing short of a trailblazer and visionary.  Lecrae signed with Reach Records in 2004. Since then he has started his own label (Cross Movement), become the only gospel rapper to ever to chart at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200, and win a Grammy.  In addition, Lecrae’s music has crossover appeal as he consistently works with Gospel and CCM artists alike.

 

 

5. Jonathan McReynolds @jonmcreynolds –

jonathan mcreynoldsA name no one knew before 2012 has now taken the gospel world by storm.  Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Jonathan McReynolds never tried to be like any other gospel artist before him. Instead, he carved out a place for himself in the gospel industry.  His nearest contemporary is Neo Soul/R&B recording artist (and apparently a musical influence) India Arie. McReynolds and Arie’s  musical styles compliment each other’s though their approaches to their music and lyrical contents differ slightly.  McReynolds brings sincerity and transparency to his brand of neo-soul sounding gospel, not to mention is unique higher tone and angelic vocal control.  His debut album, Life Music, has seen significant success charting at No. 98 on Billboards Top 200, and No. 3 on Billboard’s gospel charts respectively.

 

6. Anita Wilson @msanitawilson –

anita-wilsonMuch like her album titles, Worship Soul and Vintage Worship, Anita Wilson is just that – a worshipper, but not in the traditional sense. Wilson, who sang with Donald Lawrence before releasing her groundbreaking debut album in 2012 (Worship Soul), combines the familiar gospel sound with the classic sounds of Adult Contemporary R&B.  This classy lady (see what I did there?) has enjoyed critical acclaim from the music industry at large, receiving Grammy, Dove and Stellar nominations for her work.  Her song, “Jesus Will”, became an unexpected hit and a staple in local church praise team repertoires, even though it was never an official single from the Worship Soul album.

 

 

7. For King and Country @4kingandcountry

4kingandcountryAs with most popular music, CCM artists tend to stay within the safe boundaries of following sound trends, but, Grammy Award-winning for King & Country are true musicians not to be boxed in. Australian-born brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone provide a musically rich experience both live and in-ear. On stage, they are skilled in energetically transitioning between multiple instruments that include a huge, logo-branded, bass drum, a harmonium, bells, a glockenspiel, and more! Somehow they even manage to fuse their alternative sound and thoughtful lyrics with Christian Rap having been recently recorded with Lecrae and Andy Mineo.

 


8. Kierra Sheard 
@kierrasheard 

kierrasheard gracelandA true child of gospel music royalty, Kierra Sheard remains true to herself.  Being the daughter of Karen Clark-Sheard and granddaughter of famed gospel choir director Mattie Moss-Clark, there’s no question that Stellar and Dove Award-winning Kierra experiences pressure to live up to the greatness attached to the family name. However, Sheard is also a part of the Millennial generation and a beacon of changing times within the gospel music industry. In her 2014 release of Graceland, she pays homage to her family using samples of their work. Might I add, she does it with style and youthful enthusiasm. Furthermore, Sheard’s musical approach incorporates Urban Contemporary Gospel, CCM, Hip-Hop, Soul, and Worship subgenres. Given her background, Kierra’s career has been one of self-discovery and evolution.  Sheard’s contribution to gospel music is important as it highlights an under-represented voice growing ever louder among her peers and fans.


9. J Moss 
@insidejmoss

j moss free concertAn award-winning songwriter, producer, and recording artist in his own right, J Moss is yet another product of the regal Moss/Clark family of musicians. Moss is known of his heavily RNB influenced gospel production and vocal stylings.  In addition to working on his and his cousin’s Karen Clark Sheard projects, Moss is a founding member of the PAJAM production team which has worked with the likes of Marvin Sapp, Kierra Sheard, Boys II Men, Patti LaBelle, and N’Sync to name a few.

 

 

10. Deitrick Haddon @deitrickhaddon –

Deitrik-Haddon-defends-female-preachers-www.naturallymoi.com_Deitrick Haddon is perhaps one of the most visible and eclectic gospel artists around.  Actually, he could be considered a gospel pop star.  He is known for his flashy style, his uniquely progressive sound, and extroverted personality.  Haddon has not only had his hands in music, but motion pictures (A Beautiful Soul 2005, Blessed and Cursed 2010), and reality television (Preachers of L.A., Fix My Choir, etc).   After years of countless solo albums which integrated many styles of music, Haddon formed and recorded a new choir, LXW (League of Xtraordinary Worshippers), in order to fill an ever growing void of choir music in today’s gospel industry.  His latest album, which shares the same name as the choir, marries the choir sound with pop music while inviting contemporary gospel greats such as Hezekiah Walker and Donald Lawrence.